Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Post Holiday Empties - things that actually worked.

So we're back. And rather than doing posts about 'What to take away with you' - I thought it made sense to mention what I took and what actually got used up - by both myself and the family.

First up: Suncare

Edited July 2015:
I do not recommend this brand. I used it on myself in 2013 and yes, got a deep, brown, long-lasting tan. Since then I have spent too much time talking to people that have suffered melanoma and dermatologists that are openly aghast at the claims that Institut Esthederm make. I am dark olive-skinned genetically. I dread to think of Type 1 (fair, red-headed, freckled etc) people using this as their only protection from the sun.
It would have been easy for me to leave this post as it was and pretend it was fine, but I would rather say 'Actually, I've changed my thinking and won't use it.' The fact that I had no intention of using it on my children should have been a big enough clue to me that it wasn't safe, but I went ahead and used it. Yes I tanned, but my thinking is now 'A tan is a sign of DNA damage.'
I only use Broad Spectrum SPF. 

I'd been asked about Esthederm a lot on the blog - and hadn't used it before this holiday. Seeing as I had a rather large testing panel to hand I figured this was as good a time as any.

I used the tanning cream above - and the aftersuns below...
Institut Esthederm works differently from other sun products in that while it does contain titanium dioxide, it does not have a traditional SPF rating. There is definitely a differing opinion amongst dermatologists/skin experts about its efficacy. 

Edited July 2015 - I have not managed to speak to one dermatologist that recommends this brand. 

I've been thinking a lot about SPF and skin cancer lately.

I recently tweeted a lot of facts about melanoma including:
  • In the 1920's your chances of contracting skin cancer was around 1 in 1500. In 2013 its closer to 1 in 50. We had no SPF in the 1920's - and every availability of SPF in the 21st Century. 
  • 6 people a day die from malignant melanoma in the UK.
  • You are more at risk from melanoma if you have a close relative who has suffered from it (My Mum is a skin cancer survivor).
My take? SPF can definitely give you a false sense of security. I'm half-American - my Grandfather never sunbathed in Mississippi. EVER. If it was hot, he sat on the porch or went inside. He used to laugh at me when I got excited about being tanned. Thought I was insane. No SPF used. Ever.
These days we apply a 'once-a-day' SPF and think we're good to go. And our cancer rates have quadrupled in the last 30 years. Quadrupled.

Knowing that info made me think about what SPF to use while on holiday - on me - I'm not using my kids as guinea pigs just yet.

The result?


I would not recommend IE for children - my kids were covered in SPF 70/55 from top-to-toe and I reapplied it every time they walked past me. It may seem hypocritical but they have virgin skin - I wasn't willing to risk anything at this stage.

Tomorrow. The rest of the family and Hampton Sun.

*Purchases. No affiliate links.


  1. I love you Caroline, you know that, but I have to disagree with some of your approach with sunscreen.
    I agree there is more risk of sun cancer now compared to 1920's but that statistic doesn't explain that back in 1920 there were no sun beds on every high street selling 12 minutes of 10X sun strength UV damage for £5.
    Also, a tan wasn't seen as a fashionable item back then so they stayed out the sun altogether.

    I do however agree that sometimes SPF can give people false security BUT if they weren't hell bent on getting a tan in the first place they wouldn't put themselves at risk.

    And despite burning, it's the UV exposure that can trigger cancer, we don't have to burn to get cancer. Tan itself may not be skin damage but it's a sign our skin has been subjected to UV radiation. Something best avoided.

    Great stuff that you plaster the kids in a high factor though.

    Sorry, my rant is over LOL

    1. Hi Andy,

      I agree for the most part. Yes, a tan is fashionable in some parts and that is a cause - but SPF definitely gives people a false sense of security.
      I can't tell you how many comments I've had on here - and emails - from readers who buy the one a day SPF's or use a normal day cream with spf15 to sunbathe. Crazy.

      Sunbeds - whilst horrific - are not the root of the problem. Most cases are seen in young males who have never used a sunbed - or sunbathe regularly.

      I love my tan. I love the sun. It makes me feel alive. I know! The irony. I know its lethal. That's why I'm as careful as possible.

    2. Regarding the 1920s comparison, it's also worth remembering that in the 1920s, most people had spent their whole lives far, far more covered up than they do today. Any adult alive in the 1920s would have spent most of their lives putting on a hat every time they left the house, for a start. Moreover, the average person in the 1920s simply didn't have the leisure time to lie in the sun for hours on any sort of regular basis, and only the super-rich took holidays abroad to hot climates their skin wasn't used to.

      I totally agree that SPF can give people a false sense of security, but there are way too many other variables at play here if you're going to look at historical comparisons of incidences of skin cancer.

  2. YAY! You are blogging again!!!

    What do you think of the ingredients? I have heard that they are a bit of a mystery and can be hard to find.

    I avoid the sun like the plague. Having already had cancer before the age 30, I am not in the market for another, of any kind. Ever. *Touches wood.* (Besides, I don't want to undo my skincare efforts!) My kids are the ones in long-sleeves, hat and a good, thick schmear of zinc on exposed parts. I'll do it as long as they let me.

    1. If you've had cancer I would be out of the sun and covered in SPF. End. OF!

  3. Good to have you back! Hope you enjoyed your holidays!

  4. Good to have you back. Can you recommend a good moisturiser for oily to normal skin please.

    I love you

  5. Do you use IE on your face? Do they have a dedicated facial spf you use? If not, then what?

  6. I get so nervous about sun & sun burn (red head skin) soI use a factor 50+ whenever I leave the house. I had been looking into these sun creams but I just don't feel confident with any suncream that doesn't out right say that it's factor 50 or higher...it's a little sad I know.
    I don't think I've ever managed to achieve an even semi natural tan so this may be a good option next time I feel like trying to tan......honestly though the thought of the skin damage sun does is already putting me off that idea....x

  7. Couldn't agree more!:)

  8. Any advice for balancing SPF with vitamin d absorption? I use la Roche posay 50+ normally as my everyday skin care ( ultra pale) but worry about getting enough vitamin d with such high SPF. Don't really need it for burning in cloudy Ireland most of the time, so was wondering about UVA protection only. Are they available/do you rate them? If so, how should they be used in an everyday routine? Thanks


  9. Good to see you again!

    I must confess I'm one of the kind qwho apply their sunscreen once in the morning (if at all, shame on me...) and then leave it. But I don't sunbathe, I generally avoid the sun. Re-applying the SPF would mean to remove my make up first. Not the optimum, yes.

  10. such a great post, i couldnt agree more!
    i also loved reading through your 'about me' haha its great!:)

    http://emzieeee.blogspot.co.uk/ x

  11. Mississippi? You're not just half -American, you're half-Southern. No wonder you are so adored. ;)

    I head to the Florida Panhandle sun in 10 days, so I am very interested to hear the rest of your take on your holiday sunscreens.

  12. Just wanted to say so glad you are back Caroline. I just discovered your blog and have been soaking in all your knowledge. I just got EH and its fab! Also got the new formulated ANR and I like it so far. Ive experienced a few breakouts but I cant tell if its from the ANR or the Caudalie SOS serum/la roche moisturizer I used the other day.

    Cant wait for future posts!

  13. I'm with you on loving having a tan; it plumps up my skin and seems to soften my features (like putting Vaseline on the camera lens) but as I'm getting older I'm really conscious about just laying in the sun, frying my nipples off! I cannot believe the concoctions we used to slather on to our skin during an eight hour tanning session (complete with moving with the sun, timing each turn over for an even tan, and incorporating lying on our sides in the routine with arm over the head for a beautifully browned underarm - we were professionals!) - lemon juice, vinegar, cooking oil and baby oil. I could weep at the thought of it now, and my lined chest (sounds like something you might buy from Liberty in which to store your knickers!) is definitely testament to the madness of my youth.

    25 years on and I now find sunbathing, as in just laying comatose in the sun, beyond boring, but I still love the feel of the sun on my skin . The problem I have is that all sun cream I put on my face feels crap; either it's shiny, shine, shine or pasty white goo. I've just bought Ultra Sun SPF 30 for the face, which I have to use as I used Liquid Gold for the first time last night - let's hope this one doesn't find a new home under the kitchen sink...

  14. I am still shocked at the amount of people who don't wear SPF daily and burn in the sun. The colour sounds lovely, can't wait to see a picture once you jet lag has lifted!

    Belle x
    Mascara & Maltesers

  15. I've been considering taking a leap of faith with this - it claims that the tan it helps you develop is down to increasing melanin at the skin's surface, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing - but I am reluctant to place my trust (and my skin health) in something that I cannot find one single scientific study or piece of evidence to back up. Have you found anything that supports the claims made by IE?

  16. Laura Munro-Bruce13 August 2013 at 18:27

    I'm currently using Clinique City Block 40+ for every day use on my face (I live in Scotland so probably don't need much stronger than that at the moment!)
    I'm going on vacation to Southern US in a couple of weeks and was looking into sun protection.
    What did you use on your face? I notice that they also have a specific face cream in their range.

  17. Look at Her Majesty. If you want perfect skin and no age spots when you are old(er) wear hats and gloves, and spend your holidays in Scotland:)

  18. SPF seems to be so complicated - I read recently that anything over 50 is meaningless as it doesn't offer more protection and layering SPFs (having SPF in your moisturiser and makeup etc) basically cancels eachother out rather than giving you more protection. I do think that depending on what your natural skin colour is the sun can make it look better. In the winter I definitely go a little grey and when I'm somewhere sunny and I get a tan my skin definitely glows (I'm African).

    n the olden days people got a tan from working in fields they didn't lie out in it like we do now. The ozone layer issue making the sun stronger than it used to be is also part of the problem. We definitely need to be sensible and use suitable protection but there's got to be a happy medium between the olive oil slapping on days and the absolute terror of a tan.

    The sun is one of life's pleasures and without it absolutely nothing would live so I can't live in absolute terror of any signs of ageing. Stay in a room with blacked out windows all your life - your muscles will atrophy, you won't have any friends but at least your skin will stay perfect.

    1. Wonderfully written - I totally agree with you!

  19. Part of the problem with SPF is that it can prevent your skin from making vitamin D via sun exposure and vitamin D is thought to be a key factor in your body's cancer prevention methods. That of course doesn't at all mean it should be abandoned altogether because excess sun exposure is still very dangerous but it's nice to hear about a product that offers a happy medium!

  20. Those statistics are very interesting! I imagine there are a whole hoard of factors that come into play.

    I'm rather fair and do not tan - I've tried and now have simply come to embrace my unicorn skin. I'm terrified of being sunburned because it is a) painful and b) looks stupid, so am all about the SPF. Fingers crossed it is, you know, DOING something! Hah.


  21. A tan is evidence of sun damage. Please be careful.

  22. Whilst on holiday in Spain last week I met a sun care lady who visited the hotels in the area a few times each week to give holiday-makers advice on protecting themselves from the sun. She made the following points about sun care which I found interesting and would like to share:

    > SPF30 is a total sunblock and anything over this just contains additional waxes. Apparently, in Australia, anything over SPF30 is just labelled as SPF30+ because they don't actually offer any extra protection from the sun. Hence, a label of SPF40, for example, is considered misleading to the consumer.

    > Sun creams that contain mineral oil and waxes in the ingredients list just melt in the heat and can cause prickly heat (red lumps on the skin). It is therefore better to use sun protection without these ingredients.

    > Tan enhancers should be used only if you already have a base tan and should not be used at all by people with very fair skin. You should always use sun protection whilst using a tan enhancer as they do not protect you from the sun.

    > The number next to an SPF stands for how long you can stay in the sun before you burn. The amount of protection time an SPF offers therefore depends on the individual. So, for example, if it would take a person 3min to burn in the sun without any SPF then using a factor 15 would mean that they could stay in the sun for 45min without burning. In comparison, a person who would take 5min to burn in the sun without SPF would, in theory, get 75min of protection until they burn. For most people, using an SPF 8 would give you the same protection as an SPF30 if you sat out in the sun for 10min; the difference being that you just wouldn't be able to sit out in the sun as long after that 10min with the SPF8. However, working out much time (before burning) an SPF would give you in the sun is pointless if consider the following:

    > In direct sunlight (e.g. sunbathing), sun protection should be applied every 40min (I know - 40min!!). Therefore, an SPF of 15 should be enough for most people as it just needs to be reapplied anyway. If this is true then I don't think sun protection should be so expensive because that's a lot of product to use.

    I'm not sure how well I've explained all that and would just like to point out that I am merely repeating information shared by a sun care lady whilst on holiday. The above points are, therefore, not my personal opinion. To be honest, I don't know what to believe when it comes to sun protection!

    I did find it interesting, however, when looking at the ingredients lists of a number of sun creams, that a worrying number contain waxes that can cause prickly heat and alcohol that dehydrates the skin. I usually break out on my chest and back (prickly heat, I suppose)when using sun protection - I didn't after switching to an organic sun protection without the waxes and mineral oils.

    1. Just a note, SPF 50+ is available in Australia. Whilst what you wrote used to be the case, they've since revised the guidelines around this and allow 50+. Whether it's materially better than 30+ is another thing

    2. Thanks for this! Just had a quick Google and found an article from the Australian Cancer Council:
      SPF50+ filters out 1.3% more UVB radiation than SPF30 (98% compared to 96.7%).

      And this:
      which explains about SPF and burning time a lot better than I did.

      According to those sites, sun protection needs to be reapplied every 2 hours, not every 40min. When I asked Mr. Google the question 'How often should sun protection be applied?' I got a number of different answers.

      I'm just going to take it that it needs to be reapplied 'regularly'. I get so worried about sun protection before I go on holiday - thank goodness I only go once a year!

  23. Hello Caroline and welcome back!

    I just can't bring myself to smother my kids from head to toe in sticky sun cream. I prefer to keep a beady eye on them, avoid the peak hours and pop some cream onto shoulders, face and chest only when necessary.
    So far (touch wood) no one has ever burnt although they do develop a slow tan.
    I am not sure if I am doing the right thing but I get Mum points for trying, right?

    All the best,

  24. Thanks for the review. I've been using this product for the past two years and have enjoyed it but reading your positive review has boosted my confidence in its worth even more :-)

  25. I was born in Gibraltar and I do think the Mediterranean influence on our approach to sun protection is spot on.

    Given that we spend the most part of June to September on the beach every day, I was always slathered in factor 30/50 as a child and still developed a golden tan.
    I do appreciate that we are bound to tan given that we spend so much time in the sun, but incidences of skin related cancers are minimal here, or so I have noticed.

    My mother, aunt, grandmother and the majority of women I know, have lovely skin despite being in the sun all day for most of their lives. They have always worn SPF of 30 at the beginning of the summer and reducing it to 20 once they have tanned a little.

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  29. You are amazing! I'm glad to come across this site thanks to a Youtuber, and I really love your articles!

    I'd like to hear some words from you about my problem, if that's possible.

    I have this ongoing habit of popping my pimples and I do have scars on my faces which is terrible, and I have been very self-conscious and insecure when I'm out because of that.

    Do you have any tips or suggestions to stop this habit and if there is any way to get rid of the scars?


  30. The Insituit Esthederm facial "sunscreen" gave me the worst zits I have EVER had. Good for the body though, I thought.

  31. Caroline pleeeeease can you help me figure out where spf fits in with my p50 followed by BR dermopurifante?do you rate the latter? And how do I know if I'm using the useless or holy grail version of p50 ? I'm combination skin (spots) with redness and pigmentation. Sorry for getting the arm in...

  32. Caroline,
    I know we spoke on twitter recently about sun care and topical antioxidants but i just wanted to take a moment to say thank you again for educating on skin cancer stats and the importance of protecting your skin. I turned 26 recently and I've had to have surgery 3 times now for cancer and pre-cancerous spots. if i am not proof enough of the importance of sun care i don't know what is. thank you again. i enjoy your blog so very much and have been empowered to try to take better care of my skin because of your guidance and suggestions.

  33. Are we more prone to skin cancer because we are more in the sun? Or has the sun become more damaging or something? Makes no sense that not wearing sun screen lowers your cancer risk. Something else must be at play.

  34. So many contributing factors involved in why we are seeing more incidences of skin cancer diagnosed today, than 100 years ago. Back then if you were working class, more than likely you would have been indoors, in factories or shops all day so not as likely to be out in the sun baking. Those who were outdoors in the fields, or doing construction or working on fishing boats, would have been exposed to more sun, but wouldn't have been sat in one place all day, so they would have tanned, but not quite as much as someone lying on the beach in Magaluf. Tans were considered to be something indicative of the working classes, because it denoted one being outside doing manual labour, so it wasn't a desirable look for those who weren't doing those jobs. Women in the upper classes did everything they could to avoid getting a tan, using parasols and wearing large brimmed hats when in the sun.

    There is also the fact that cancers weren't diagnosed nearly as successfully or regularly diagnosed 100 years ago. Healthcare wasn't something that the poorer working classes typically had access to, so skin cancers weren't diagnosed as frequently.

    That said, I 100% agree with Caroline where she talks about the double edged sword of now having SPFs, creates a false sense of security and breeds a kind of ambivalence: ie. I'm wearing sunscreen, I put it on earlier, so I'm totally ok to just go ahead and do whatever I want in the sun now. THAT is dangerous and I wholeheartedly applaud C being firm on how we should be much more aware of the dangers of not taking care to ensure we are protected in the sun. And sunbeds shouldn't even be a THING anymore. Not even for psoriasis treatment, because you can now get specialist treatments that use specialist UV therapy in a medical setting. Stop paying money to go to these places. If they aren't making any money, then they'll have to close, with or without any new legislation. Just don't!